Jude as A Dreamer of Dream: in Jude The Obscure

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      Reality and illusory dreams. Throughout the novel Hardy makes certain remarks that weld together reality and illusory dreams in a very subtle manner. The main trend of the story relies on the evanescent nature of the misplaced ambition of Jude. He has certain premonitions too that his venture is bound to be fruitless. Even in his early childhood, Jude had possessed an exceptional sensitiveness to what he had been observing of the external world as opposed to what he had been experiencing in his subjective consciousness. He never failed to observe minute things as well as large objects of gross interest. The author describes him looking down into a well as if to peer into it and find out what is in store for him at a future date. He would be walking carefully along the wet ground to avoid crushing small worms which in a small child is unusual. He climbs onto the roof of the barn on two successive occasions and strains his eyes to see the distant city of Christminster which according to him resembled the heavenly Jerusalem. What he sees—is it Christminster or not? Here the author’s statement is highly pregnant with meaning. “It was Christminster, unquestionably either directly seen or miraged in the peculiar atmosphere.” The ambiguity of his experience as hinted at by the word “miraged” tells us a lot in a sweeping fashion. The entire story of the actual characteristics of the University city and the illusory dreams of Jude for an academic career is brought to light here.

      Three-fold layers in experience and visions. Jiide’s story is distinctly divisible into three separate stages: (1) the early stage when Jude is urged on by his intellectual ambition to be a great academician, (2) the subsequent obstacle due to internal as well as external causes, and (3) final disillusionment. In all these stages the author makes his hero “see” certain things. This “seeing” is sometimes literal and often metaphorical. How far he succeeds in his “seeing” is dependent upon his ability to withstand the blinding influence of his sensuous nature and the adverse overpowering influence of external factors. The first vision is unalloyed with the sexual urge. He is utterly innocent. Though an orphan and though he laboured under the weight of a sense of being unwanted in the world, yet he is very observant. With a great deal of faith, he has the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem with the halo of religiosity and intellectual fragrance. This has been his boyish experience.

      The second vision makes him see a distorted picture of the city of his dreams. Personally he is somewhat defiled due to his escapades with Arabella. This vision does not have the magical quality of the vision when he was innocent. Jude’s preconceptions modify his views both ocular and mental. He is blind to certain inconvenient and ugly features not in conformity with his previous obsessions. What does not harmonize with his academic dream city slips out of his ocular path. As Hardy puts it he “allows his eyes to slip over them as if he did not see them.

      The third vision is clearer comparatively due to his final disillusionment. The blunt but straightforward reply of the academician clearly stated that the intellectual mansions of Christminster were not intended for folks of his ilk. Here the clarity of the physical objects aligns with the mental as well as emotional insights. The fact that the worker in stone whose activity should have been confined to concrete structures be they of the religious type in the forms of churches and chapels or the secular type in the forms of shops and houses should not have indulged in building castles in the air—this fact is brought home to him. He was made to understand that his misfortunes, his unfulfilled aims, and ambitions were the direct results of his audacity to build ethereal structures after forsaking the substantial ones of concrete shape. This recognition that dawns upon him so late in his life—not in terms of years because he dies in his thirtieth years—enables him to realize the sham characteristics of Christminster. He realizes that this University town need not be the object of his ardor and earnest love because the godliness of a real home of good learning has disappeared and what remains is only a relic of complacent archaism and irrelevance.

      Rise and fall of the hopes. We can trace the rise and fall of Jude's hopes in the three stages referred to before. Initially, he was clearsighted. Then the stage is that of blinkered vision because the external influence has been too powerful for him to withstand. The sufferings naturally lead him to an eventual realization of the truth and accurate perception devoid of elements of self-deception. It was his idealistic notion of the academic town that caused temporary blindness accentuated by the corrupting influence of the sensuous upsurge.

      Dreams shattered by harsh facts. The assertion of reality is abrupt and shocking. The harsh fact of the hurled pizzle of the slaughtered pig marks a stage of transition from an internal obstruction to the actual perception of real and concrete objects. There is no wonder that his contemplative mood is shattered by this piece of a conglomeration of tissues and muscles. Jude's intellectual future is also to be shattered by this coarse voluptuous woman Arabella. The second blindness in his vision is also equally disheartening. Only for a short fleeting while does his intellectual eye open itself to gain a vision.

      The fate of all dreamers. Only in very rare cases do we find all dreams fully realized. If the dreamer has intrinsic strength and vitality and the dreams are not fantastic there is the possibility of the dreams being realized. Otherwise, dreams are sure to be shattered. Jude Fawley, capable of many a folly, was a dreamer without the inherent strength and hence his dreams were shattered. The blame may be shared by Fate, hostile society, or any other extraneous things along with the innate frailties and weaknesses of Jude himself. All dreamers are introverts and hence the novel Jude the Obscure deals much with the mind of Jude the protagonist. The dominant dreams he indulges in are the causes of his defeat on the battlefield of life. The continuity and the force of those dreams are such that his failure and frustration could not be prevented.

      Obsession with Cliristminster. In those days University education was the prerogative of members of the higher classes and status in society. Jude was a stone-mason and hence his ambition to become a celebrated University graduate or a Minister of Christ (at least a bishop!) was more than wishful thinking. Even as a boy of eleven Jude had the vision of the University city as the “heavenly Jerusalem”. He climbs to the top of the roof of Brown House to have a glimpse of the dream-heaven he has conjured up in his heart of hearts. He believes that his dreams will turn into reality assuring his future prospects. He ventures upon a course of self-study for the realization of his dream.

      The youth is overwhelmed by the sexual urge. Sex urge is in every teenage lad. So was the case of Jude. Arabella with her impetuosity and coarse voluptuousness ensnared him completely and tricked him into marrying her. Coming into direct conflict with an extraneous reality in the form of the unvoiced call of a woman the dream suffers a setback. Jude says to Arabella: “It is a complete smashing up of my plans—I mean my plans before I knew you, my dear...But what are they after all? Dreams about books and degrees and impossible scholarships and all that. Certainly, we'll marry. I must have you”.

      There is nothing wrong with having keen sexual desires provided one could check the urge to have other equally good things in life, perhaps better things in that they may have a lasting effect in the sublimation of the self. It is here that Jude foils and his dreams are shattered as a result.

      The separation from Arabella revives his dream. He goes to Christminster with renewed hopes of intellectual life. He has plans to become a Doctor of Divinity to enable him to become a bishop. He could rub shoulders with college students with intellectual aspirations and dreams as ardent as his intellectual ambition. But in this city of light and enlightenment, he finds an iron wall of social disparity in status rising between him and those students. His appeals to academicians do not elicit any response except from one who frankly tells him that he would do well to remain a stonemason for life. No one at the helm of affairs is prepared to raise even a little finger to help him. His intellectual dreams get completely shattered though some of their fragments are still carried by Jude in his heart to the day of his death.

      Passionate Shelleyan love as the second dream. Despite his great aunt’s warning Jude begins to cherish a passionate love for his cousin Sue. Disappointed in the case of Arabella, Jude is cautious in his approach to Sue. Sue proves to be a super-human being, an airy spirit, fashioned by Providence to lead him to his distraction. Despite some intellectual affinity, the differences between the two were highly pronounced since Jude was thoroughly religious and faithfully simple whereas Sue was in an unorthodox mood idolizing the pagan divinities. Sue was a complex person of contrasts and contradicting behavior patterns. She was sometimes sensitive and tender-hearted but at other times she could perpetrate the most thoughtless cruelty. She mystified Jude and he experienced moments of delight interspersed with periods of frustration.

      The second dream was too smashed up and deranged. The individual idiosyncrasies of Sue have less to contribute to the shattering of Jude's dream than the institution of marriage. At the outset, his formal marriage to Arabella checked Jude's pursuit of a University career. Now that he wanted to pay court to Sue with ample opportunities otherwise, the institution of marriage stands in his way. Although the love life of Jude and Sue appears to flourish for a while even though they did not marry yet the restrictions that go with the institution of marriage cause many troubles to Jude and Sue and ultimately the death of Jude after Sue's volte-face.

      Society’s role. The shattering of both the dreams may have been caused by some intrinsic weakness of Jude but it is apparent that the hostility of the society has had a hand in both cases. The elite society at that time was indifferent to the intellectual aspirations of young men hailing from poor families of low status. This had caused the shattering of the first dream of Jude. Society unduly clung to the letter of the marriage contract.

      Architectural terms are symbolic of subjective experiences. Hardy had been an architect by profession. Jude his hero was a stonemason with some architectural experience. In Christminster there is extensive repair and restoration of mediaeval buildings. The whole interior stonework was being overhauled to be largely replaced by new. Although he did not see that medievalism was dead there were other developments around him in which Gothic architecture had no place whatsoever. These developments symbolically refer to the advent of Sue in the life of Jude. The relationship between Sue and Jude develops with the irrelevance of medievalism both in the realm of academic activities as well as architectural enterprises. The likes and dislikes of the two thus pitted against each other are symbolized by the contrast in their architectural styles. Sue hates Gothic types as barbaric art but Jude retains a love of this mediaeval architecture as exemplified by the University town of his dreams. This is relevant even at the time when his disillusionment is full-fledged with this feeling that Christminster cannot be his intellectual and spiritual home. He makes Christminster cakes and Sue sells them at the Agricultural Show. This harping on Christminster provokes angry remarks from Arabella.

      Conclusion. The existence of the visible world is powerful as realized by Jude who is endowed with an exceptional capacity to observe things. But his vision is blurred on account of sensuality as well as dreamy visionary attitude towards intellectual pursuits. But in the end, Jude does realize that Sue is not worth a man’s love and also that Christminster is unworthy of his ardor and efforts to gain entrance to it.

University Questions also can be Answered:

How far would you consider Jude as a dreamer defeated by reality?


“You are Joseph the dreamer of dreams, dear Jude...” says Sue. Is that a correct assessment? Examine critically.


The tragedy of Jude is that he is dominated by two dreams, which for various causes, cannot be realized. Comment

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